Company purchased property from the county in late 2021
Benderson Development Co., which is located in University Park, has informed City of Sarasota staff about its preliminary proposal for the site of the Sarasota County Administration Center on Ringling Boulevard, which the company bought in late 2021, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.
A letter formally provided on May 24 to the Office of the City Auditor and Clerk says that Benderson affiliate CCB Associates 1 LLC plans to seek an amendment to the Future Land Use Map in the city’s Comprehensive Plan to modify the land use classification for two of the three parcels that Benderson purchased for $25 million; it also will request the rezoning of most of the property. The goal, the letter adds, is “to accommodate a form that caters to both the neighborhood and urban contexts surrounding the site.”
The letter was written by Philip DiMaria, project planning manager of the Kimley-Horn consulting firm in Sarasota. He also is handling Benderson Development’s application with Sarasota County for the rezoning of two single-family home parcels in the Pine Shores Estates neighborhood that are being added to the Siesta Promenade site in the northwest quadrant of Stickney Point Road and U.S. 41. (See the related article in this issue.)
Along with the parcel on which the six-story Administration Center stands in downtown Sarasota, Benderson bought two adjacent parcels used for parking; both have Morrill Street addresses.
The largest of the three parcels comprises 2.88 acres, according to the records maintained by the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office. That is the property where the building stands.
The current land use classification of the northern portion of that parcel is Downtown Core, the letter notes, while the classification of the southern section is Urban Edge.
The parking lot directly to the south of that parcel — whose address is 1646 Morrill St. — has the future land use classification of Mixed Residential, the letter adds. It comprises approximately 2.17 acres.
The second parking lot, which is immediately southeast of the Administration Center, has the classification of Urban Edge.
The Benderson affiliate will seek the future land classification of Downtown Core for the entire parcel that is home to the Administration Center building, while it will request the classification of Urban Edge for the larger of the two parking lots, the letter points out.
Benderson plans to leave the second parking lot with the Urban Edge land use classification, the letter notes.
The City Code explains that the Downtown Core zoning designation allows for “a very dense mixed-use urban area. Residential dwellings are generally multiple-family and located in tall structures. Residential dwellings may be built up to a maximum density of 50 dwelling units per acre. Nonresidential uses are varied and include department stores, entertainment facilities, restaurants, offices and lodging uses. Ground floor retail is allowed everywhere and is mandatory on certain designated frontages. Building height shall be limited to a maximum of ten stories [except under specific circumstances]. Building frontages include stoops, forecourts and storefronts.”
In regard to the zoning: The letter notes that the northern portion of the parcel with the building is zoned Downtown Core, while the southern section is zoned Downtown Edge.
The larger parking lot is zoned RSM-9, which the City Code explains thus: “The RSM-9 zone is a moderate density single-family zone, which allows up to nine dwelling units per acre. One and two story single-family detached houses will characterize allowed housing.”
The second Morrill Street parking lot — whose address is 1703 Morrill St. — is zoned Downtown Edge, the letter adds, which the company will not seek to change. The City Code describes that zone as follows: “a densely mixed-use area typically located along a pedestrian way or a thoroughfare road within a neighborhood. Residential dwellings may be single-family or multiple-family and may include mixed-use structures that provide for live-work opportunities. Residential dwellings may be built to a maximum density of 25 dwelling units per acre, or up to 100 dwelling units per acre” in the Rosemary Residential Overlay District. “A variety of nonresidential uses are allowed everywhere with ground floor retail mandatory on certain designated frontages. Building heights shall be limited to a maximum of five stories or seven stories in the RROD [Rosemary Residential Overlay District] when urban open space is provided or a transfer of development rights occurs for a development project. Building frontages include stoops, forecourts and storefronts.”
The Benderson affiliate plans to request the rezoning of the entire parcel on which the Administration Center building stands to Downtown Core. For the larger parking lot, Benderson will seek the rezoning of most of the northern portion to Downtown Edge, with the goal of rezoning the southern remainder to Downtown Neighborhood Edge.
The City Code explains that the Downtown Neighborhood Edge (DTNE) zone “is a mixed-use transition area typically located along the interface between residential and nonresidential neighborhoods. The desired character includes building close to and oriented towards the sidewalk especially at street corners. Development is intended to be pedestrian oriented. Residential dwellings may be single-family or multiple-family and may include mixed-use structures that provide for live-work opportunities. Residential dwellings may be built to a maximum density of 18 dwelling units per acre. A variety of nonresidential uses that contribute to the residential attributes of the adjacent residential neighborhood are allowed. Building heights shall be limited to a maximum of three stories. Building frontages include stoops, forecourts and storefronts.”
The county has been leasing the three parcels from Benderson for $1 million a year since the sale closed just before the end of 2021. That lease expires at the end of 2025.
Plans for a new North County Administration Center at 6700 Fruitville Road, which is east of Interstate 75, near the Fruitville Public Library, call for that project to be completed in 2025. County Capital Projects Department staff has told the county commissioners that the new building should be completed and ready for occupancy in December 2025.
The expense of that project has been estimated at close to $77 million.
A focus on New Urbanism
DiMaria explained in his May 24 preliminary application for city staff that the proposed land use classifications and zoning amendments “will provide a form that is founded upon the concepts of ‘New Urbanism,’ ” which, he noted, are consistent with the goals, objectives and action strategies of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. If approved, the changes will “foster an environment that complements the Ringing [Boulevard] complete street [model] through the creation of frontage that is safe, comfortable, and an interesting place to live, walk and meet.”
The company’s proposal, he continued, “could result in the following uses: live-work structures, multiple-family dwellings such as condominiums, apartments, and rowhouses, lodging facilities, offices, retail stores and service establishments, recreational uses, and open spaces.”
During County Commission discussions prior to the sale of the Administration Center property, then-Commissioner Charles Hines said he envisioned residential construction on the site, with individuals living in close proximity to restaurants and many other amenities in downtown Sarasota and the environs.
The commissioners agreed that they needed a new facility because of the projected expense of maintaining the existing building, which is not rated to withstand a hurricane higher than a Category 3. (GTE constructed the building in 1973. The county purchased that parcel for $5,588,000 in December 1993, Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records show.)
In May 2020, county staff estimated that maintenance and renovation costs could add up to as much as $32.5 million over 10 years and up to $49 million over 20 years.
During one discussion, then-Commissioner Alan Maio suggested that anyone calling into question the board’s eagerness to relocate to a new building was not aware of the conditions with which staff and the commissioners had been contending.
“Go up to our sixth floor, in case you think we’re working in the Taj Mahal, and see what I call five upside down umbrellas, 8-foot by 8-foot squares, channeling the water that’s leaking through the roof, funneled through a hose into giant containers. There is no longer any time to wait on this,” he added of the proposed sale.